Minnesota History: Building A Legacy

Civil War

Civil War Cap

Army officer’s uniform cap, 1861–1865. MHS Collections.

From being the first state to volunteer troops to defend the Union, to the First Minnesota’s heroic charge at Gettysburg, Minnesota played a valuable role in the U.S. Civil War. The war also helped shape our young state.

“Minnesota forged its identity as an American state, a member of the Union, in the very firestorm that threatened to destroy the nation,” said Wendy Jones, head of Museum and Education Programs at the Minnesota History Center.

“By studying the Civil War, we open a window on who we are today and see more clearly how our choices can shape the future.”
~ Wendy Jones, head of Museum and Education Programs at the Minnesota History Center

Throughout the 150th anniversary of the war, Arts and Cultural Heritage funds are making it possible for Minnesotans to connect with the rich history and fascinating stories related to our state’s involvement in the war.

ACHF Civil War Initiatives

ACHF support is also allowing Minnesotans to relive each day of the Civil War through Minnesota soldiers and Minnesotans back home. A daily blog on the Minnesota Historical Society’s website, The Civil War Daybook, posts a digitized newspaper article, personal letter or other document from the Society’s collections that correlates to the same day during the war 150 years ago.

Below are examples from the Society’s online Civil War Daybook (www.mnhs.org/civilwardaybook).


“Dear Brother... There is fireing going on most all the while; a few minets ago their was a gun fired rite across here at the picket below me. I went down to the watter but could not see him. I came back and gave my gun to one of the men with orders to shoot the first one he saw on the other side. [...]”
~ Matthew Marvin of Winona, Private in the First Minnesota Regiment. Excerpt from a letter Marvin wrote to his brother from Camp Stone, Virginia, on Aug. 26, 1861. Posted online Aug. 26, 2011.


“Gov. Ramsey–Sir: ...My son, who was my supporter, is in the army... He has been in the army some over three months. I am 59 years old, and am too weak to do much work. I am a widow. My clothing and victuals are so poor I do not feel well. It is getting cold. I do not know whether your Excellency is the proper person to address my wants to, but if you are not, please write to me immediately, and tell me what is necessary.”
~ Elisabeth Dearmin of Moscow, Freeborn County, Minnesota. Excerpt from a letter Dearmin wrote to Gov. Alexander Ramsey on Sept. 28, 1861. Posted online Sept. 28, 2011.